On every page of Paper magazine, the message is simple, direct, and to the point: Party, party, party, until you trip away from a hip cultural event in your Balenciaga shoes and puke into your eight-hundred-dollar Marc Jacobs bag. Paper, once a hip local broadsheet for the downtown New York scene, went glossy when the scene did and now relishes a well-constructed reputation for twenty-four-hour fashonista bacchanals that put college fraternities to shame. I joined the fashion rag Wednesday evening for its second annual Los Angeles Paper Project on day two of a caravan of promotional concerts, panels, neighborhood visits, and art walks around LA.
Attempting to avoid the promised crowds at the PR extravaganza, I arrived early to get a good look at the galleries. Paper’s interns and organizers were already gathered amid crates of Italian beer stacked on the sidewalk next to ice-cream trucks blaring reggae and giving away designer cosmetics.
I cut away from the Bernard Street cul-de-sac and up to adjacent Chung King Road, where red Chinese lanterns hung in eerie silence and the gallerists were unruffled by the promise of bedlam to come. I showed Parker Jones of Black Dragon Society the canvas schwag bag Paper was distributing to the chic patrons of the arts who were due to arrive any moment. “I [Adidas logo] Chinatown” was emblazoned on the bag, to which Jones pronounced, with a rakish grin, “Keep your shoes off my town.” Peres Projects, which is featuring hilarious neon one-liners by Dan Attoe, seemed a bit livelier, with five young hired hands typing away at computers, instant-messaging gallery owner Javier Peres, at that moment far away from his LA space. Steve Hanson and Maeghan Reid of China Art Objects and Red Krayola member Tom Watson were sipping Tsingtao beers in true Chinatown fashion, beneath rich paintings of Blakean depth and spiritual darkness by J. P. Munro, throwing a party of their own until Paper’s arrived.
I meandered back to Bernard Street to see the single art performance of the night, at Daniel Hug Gallery. Patterson Beckwith had set up a portrait photography studio, and the small line awaiting pictures was the nearest thing to a crowd I’d seen all night. “Be sure to get it signed,” Dan Hug whispered to me conspiratorially. But Beckwith would have none of it; he marked the backs of his spectral black-and-white Polaroids with a blue stamp that authoritatively stated, “This Artwork Produced By Patterson Beckwith ©20__.” As the stillborn night rumbled to a close, the army of interns had fled to the next stop of the caravan in Echo Park, and there was nary a free beer to be found. The last remnants of the-crowd-that-never-was huddled around the entrance of the Bernard Street galleries. All the faces around were likable Chinatown artists and dealers: Ooga Booga’s Wendy Yao and her boyfriend, artist Nick Relph, joking with artists Eli Langer, Bart Exposito, and Brian Kennon; Francois Ghebaly of Chung King Project talking about the upcoming fairs with Kordansky’s Natasha Garcia-Lomas and Jack Hanley’s Alexandra Gaty. This evening, New York couldn’t connect with LA's Chinatown, but the neighborhood moves at its own pace and sets its own agenda. As I was leaving, I bumped into collector Michael Gold, surveying the scene through his yellow-rimmed glasses. “It’s hard for magazines to stay alive, especially art magazines,” he said. “So many come and go. Who can blame them for trying to get more advertising?”